Negotiate For What You Want Without Raising Your Voice (or Blood Pressure)
“Don’t raise your voice. Improve your argument.”
Bishop Desmond Tutu, Address at the Nelson Mandela Foundation in Johannesburg, South Africa, November 23, 2004
Whether you’re arguing at work with a co-worker or having a tense negotiation, there are times when you can blow your cool and suddenly find the situation slipping away. For most people, that’s when the adrenaline starts flowing, the blood pressure rises, and the voice modulation breaks down. Now you’re unexpectedly yelling, and by that point, you’ve lost whatever you were trying to get.
The idea behind Bishop Tutu’s quote is a principle every veteran negotiator keeps in mind when they negotiate. Improving your argument and being confident in your views will go a long way towards winning.
Here are a few guidelines to make you more persuasive:
- Be strong. There was a television commercial years ago starring rugged veteran actor, Jack Palance, whose tag line was, “Confidence is sexy.” That’s an understatement! People naturally gravitate to confident people and, if you throw a little cockiness and swagger around, your audience or opponent will unconsciously be more open to taking your side. Don’t add qualifiers to the point you’re making … it only weakens the argument. Even if you “think” something will work, don’t say, “I think” or “I believe” when making your point. Say that you know it will work, without reservation.
- Communicate calmly and clearly. Confident people are calm and communicate clearly at all times, even while arguing. Use assertive body language (such as eye contact, a smile and good posture) and remember … take strong stands when you negotiate.
- Keep it simple. Don’t use jargon or technical terms unless all the other people involved would use it as well. If you can’t explain your concept or point of view to a 9th grader so that they could turn around and explain it sufficiently to another adult, it’s too complicated.
- Know your subject. If it’s important, you’ll want to become an expert on the topic. Consider possible reasons the person might not agree with what you’re asking for.
- Point out the positive. Emphasize positive aspects of what you’re proposing. But do be honest at all times when you negotiate. Protect your credibility—you’ll need it the next time you deal with this person.
- Offer social proof. When the course of action is not clear, people tend to do what other people similar to them do. So if you want to convince someone to do something, show how others similar to them have already done it.
- Listen well and ask questions. Listen to find out how receptive the person you’re talking to is. If they have objections, what are they? Ask questions that could lead the person to tell you about a desire to do something. Listen closely to their answers. Listen for areas where they agree with you and build on those.
- Mirror speech and actions. We are more easily influenced by people similar to ourselves. By repeating what someone has said (using some of the same words), you become more influential. (Don’t reword what they said, because this makes it appear that you’re correcting them.) This mirroring goes for body language as well: If the person you’re trying to persuade is leaning back in his or her chair, do the same. (Don’t go overboard or be obvious with mirroring.)
- Show empathy. It’s critical to look at things from someone else’s perspective. Listen to negatives. Find common ground and shared viewpoints. We don’t live in a black-and-white world, so don’t argue over opinions. The other person’s perspective is valid, and if you reinforce this, they will be more open to negotiate towards your view.
- Be flexible and accept baby steps. Once we buy into something or someone, we tend to become more committed to it or them. So, if someone agrees to a small step by saying yes to any part of what you’re asking, accept it gladly. Those small steps can lead up to bigger agreements in future. Be open-minded.
- Build a consistent, reliable image. How you’ve dealt with people in the past will affect your dealings with them now. Keep promises. Be honest. Negotiate. Follow through. Reciprocate.
Following these keys takes practice, but once you learn them and can model them when the emotions are flying, you’ll put yourself up several rungs on the ladder of winning negotiations and arguments.